Principles of Marketing
22 March 2014
Ethics in Marketing Tobacco
Businesses and organizations have a responsibility to meet social obligations beyond earning profits within legal and ethical restrictions. “Ethics are moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual or group” (see Marketing The Core 69). The purpose of ethics is to identify rules that should govern individuals and the products that are being sought after. Ethics are guided by the foundation or the values of an individual. Ethical issues arise in every facet of life, including businesses, which operate in a world of business ethics. Ethics in marketing has become a hot-button issue in our socially aware and politically correct environment. Ethical marketing has been seen as a corporate social responsibility but it is also very much dependent on each individual’s ethics. In the 1960’s smoking was being marketed as the healthy and trendy thing to do. Although cigarettes were being marketed as healthy and trendy, the reality is in the 1960's was a time when much of the health hazards of smoking were reported. The Surgeon General came out with a negative report on smoking and health and tobacco companies continued to advertise contrary to the report to maintain sales of cigarettes. Marketers in the 60s were being irresponsible and unethical in how they promoted cigarettes. “Tobacco is a plant that grows natively in North and South America. It is in the same family as the potato, pepper and the poisonous nightshade, a very deadly plant” (see History of Tobacco). Tobacco began growing in America about 6,000 B.C. and was used by American Indians as the cure all and painkiller for everything. “In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, tobacco helped finance the revolution by serving as collateral for loans the Americans borrowed from France! Over the years, more and more scientists begin to understand the chemicals in tobacco, as well as the dangerous health effects smoking produces (see History of Tobacco). In the 1900’s cigarettes became the major tobacco product being sold. Although cigarettes became popular, there was a small group who began to launch an anti-tobacco campaign because of the deadly effects of tobacco. Despite this campaign, the demand for cigarettes began to grow and companies began to capitalize on the popularity and launch aggressive marketing campaigns to sell the product. When marketers in the 60’s began to aggressively promote the use of cigarettes, they choose to ignore the facts about the dangers of tobacco because cigarettes were popular among the general public. “Prior to 1976, the tobacco industry advertised their deadly products on television and radio” (see History of Tobacco Marketing). Television characters and attractive models were being used to sell cigarettes to young people in the 60s. They used billboards, Ad’s sports sponsorships and the light and mild sham, which promoted these types of cigarettes as being safer than the regular. The created the famous Marlboro man and Joe Camel. Magazines and newspapers were flooded with cigarette ads promising better lives for smokers. The tobacco companies were being faced with moral and ethical dilemmas and choosing to make money over promoting the truth. Companies to connect with its customers use marketing programs. Competition in markets cause many businesses to reconstruct their marketing plans in order to connect with more people and sell more products. “Marketing is the activity for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that benefit its customers, the organization, its stake holders and society at large” (see Marketing The Core 5). Marketing is not simple advertising; it delivers genuine benefits in the offering of goods and services to customers. Marketers find out what consumers need and want and create advertising to make the connection between the company and the consumer. In this case the tobacco companies recognized the popularity of cigarettes. It was very popular among soldiers; they received free cigarettes while they were away at war and when they returned home, the tobacco companies had loyal customers. Women were also being marketed with the new “safe” and light cigarettes and smoking rates among females rose. Through successful marketing efforts, companies created a smoking culture. People believed that ad’s that showed life was better because of smoking, life is a party if you smoke and cigarettes refresh you and taste good. Societal culture provides a foundation for understanding moral behavior in business activities. Business cultures comprise the effective rules of the game, the boundaries between competitive and unethical behavior, [and] the code of conduct in business dealings. Business culture affects ethical conduct both in the exchange relationship between sellers and buyers and in the competitive behavior among sellers. ("Marketing The Core" 70) During the 1950's, evidence was surfacing that smoking was linked to lung cancer. Although the tobacco industry denied such health hazards, they promoted new products, which were said to be “safer”, such as those with lower tar, and filtered cigarette. Despite this very alarming news, people continued to purchase cigarettes. The money that was invested by companies in their marketing campaigns was paying off. Event though cigarettes were very dangerous, consumers still bought the product, because it was marketed in such a way that it was causing people to buy and have needs met that were created by the companies. It was during the 1960’s that the truth about the danger of tobacco and cigarettes was really made known to the public. Health warnings began to appear on the sides of cigarettes packages. Television ad’s promoting cigarettes were finally taken off the air, however cigarettes are the second most heavily advertised item next to automobiles. Over the years many people have taken up the bad habit of smoking through the use of slick creative advertisement. During the 80's there were many lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry because of the harmful effects of its products. “In short, (the) defendants have marketed and sold their products with zeal, with deception, with a single minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted." US District Judge Gladys Kessler in her final opinion in the court case: US Government vs. the Tobacco Industry, 2004” (see The History of Tobacco). The tobacco industry's influence is everywhere, yet most people have become so accustomed to the ways that tobacco infiltrates our daily lives and has become embedded in our culture that its presence goes unnoticed. Tobacco is present in movies, sports, stores, gas stations, newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet. This affects impressionable eyes of those too young to fully understand the long-term consequences of tobacco use. Despite legal settlements and laws that have diverted some of their marketing, tobacco companies still spend more than $10 billion a year to promote their products, and they continue to entice young people. Tobacco marketing is less visible in the United States today because tobacco ads are banned on television, radio and billboards and less common in magazines and newspapers. The tobacco industry has been shamed into retiring Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, the notorious marketing icons that lured people for so long. But tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their products despite the fact that 443,000 Americans die every year from tobacco-related diseases. Despite restrictions placed on tobacco marketing by the 1998 legal settlement between the states and tobacco companies, tobacco companies increased their total marketing expenditures by 52 percent between 1998 and 2008 (see Warning To Parents). The recent trends in tobacco marketing focus heavily on a younger (teen) population. Their current strategies often have the greatest impact on kids — the replacement smokers. Tobacco companies today spend more than 90 percent of their total marketing budget to advertise and promote their products in convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets because they have been banned from the traditional outlets. “Tobacco companies’ pay stores billions to ensure that cigarettes and other tobacco products are advertised heavily, displayed prominently and priced cheaply to appeal to kids and current tobacco users. This marketing is very effective at reaching kids because two-thirds of teenagers visit a convenience store at least once a week. Studies have shown that exposure to tobacco marketing in stores and price discounts increase youth smoking” (see Warning To Parents). In addition to marketing in specific locations that appeal to young people, tobacco companies have begun to really pushing smokeless items. Products such as traditional chewing tobacco can now be purchased in kid-friendly flavors such as cherry, apple and citrus and new dissolvable and easily concealed tobacco products, called sticks, strips and orbs, that look like mints, breath strips and toothpicks. Tobacco companies work really hard to keep their brand fresh and their product inexpensive so that young people will continue to buy. “During the 1980's there were many lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry because of the harmful effects of its products. Smoking becomes politically incorrect, with more public places forbidding smoking. In 1982, the Surgeon General reports that second hand smoke may cause lung cancer. Smoking in public areas is soon restricted, especially at the workplace” (see The History of Tobacco). While the tobacco industry now runs ads to say that they have changed their ways, they continue to lie to the general public. They have repeatedly made misleading health claims about cigarettes, including that "light" cigarettes are "safer," however the Federal government recently banned them from using such descriptors because they were not less harmful. They continue to appeal to teenagers by using images of attractive young adults who look healthy, independent and adventurous. Tobacco companies are in a tough position. They have to ethically promote their product and at the same time make money. This seems to be an impossible situation. If they promote the true information about their product such as, cigarettes are harmful, nicotine is addictive and smoking is a dangerous habit, they will not gain sales. Tobacco companies have a responsibility to meet social obligations beyond earning profits within legal and ethical restrictions, even though it may cost them sales. Customers should be able to make well-informed purchases. If companies continue to sell harmful products that risk the lives of their customers, they should be willing to loose something as well, money.
Kerin, Roger A., Steven William. Hartley, and William Rudelius. Marketing: The Core. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2004. Print. Randall, Vernellia. "History of Tobacco." Boston University Medical Center, 2009. Web. 21 March. 2014. "Warning to Parents: How Big Tobacco Targets Kids Today." Tobacco Industry Watch, 2012. Web. 21 March. 2014.